Up in smoke

Hart­ley off to a rough start in Brazil

Herald on Sunday - - SPORT -

Birth­day boy Bren­don Hart­ley has recorded the 17th fastest time on the open­ing day of prac­tice for For­mula One’s Brazil­ian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo.

Kiwi driver Hart­ley, cel­e­brat­ing his 28th birth­day, over­came a dis­ap­point­ing first prac­tice ses­sion to drive a heavy sec­ond ses­sion at the In­ter­la­gos track.

His time of one minute 11.821 sec­onds was quicker than three oth­ers in the 20-man field.

Toro Rosso team­mate Pierre Gasly was 16th fastest, 0.399sec ahead of the rookie from Palmer­ston North.

It was some­thing of a re­lief for Hart­ley, whose 28th birth­day was shap­ing up badly when forced to pull out of the first ses­sion af­ter just two laps be­cause of engine prob­lems.

His 54 laps dur­ing the sec­ond ses­sion was the most by any driver.

Mercedes dom­i­nated the ses­sion, with Lewis Hamil­ton clock­ing 1min 09.515sec to head off team­mate Valt­teri Bot­tas by 0.048sec at the top of the timesheet.

Hamil­ton, who has al­ready wrapped a fourth cham­pi­onship title, couldn’t match his first ses­sion time of 1:09.202, which was a lap record.

Brazil hosts the penul­ti­mate round of the cham­pi­onship to­mor­row [NZT].

Hart­ley made his de­but at the US Grand Prix in Texas last month, where he qual­i­fied 18th fastest and fin­ished 13th in the race.

At the sub­se­quent Mex­ico Grand Prix, Hart­ley was 13th in qual­i­fy­ing but failed to fin­ish the race be­cause of engine fail­ure.

Hamil­ton, with four world cham­pi­onship stars now on his race hel­met, dom­i­nated the open­ing and sec­ond prac­tice and shows no sign of let­ting up. “It is a bet­ter time than ever to ap­ply even more pres­sure, just be­cause you can,” he said.

Bot­tas, who is bid­ding to end the sea­son as run­ner-up to the Bri­ton, was sec­ond fastest in 1:09.563 while Aus­tralia’s Daniel Ric­cia­rdo was third rac­ing in the Red Bull car and 0.228sec ahead of Fer­rari’s Se­bas­tian Vet­tel.

The pre­vi­ous track record of 1:09.822 was set by Brazil­ian Rubens Bar­richello in 2004 qual­i­fy­ing for Fer­rari. Red Bull’s Dutch 20-year-old Max Ver­stap­pen was fifth ahead of Fer­rari’s Kimi Raikko­nen in Sao Paulo.

Hamil­ton may have al­ready won the cham­pi­onship at the last race in Mex­ico but says he is de­ter­mined to win the fi­nal two races.

Mercedes have clinched the con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onship for a fourth suc­ces­sive year and have said they will use prac­tices to ex­per­i­ment with pro­cesses and parts for 2018.

With none of the top four teams able to im­prove their plac­ings or in any danger of drop­ping down the or­der, oth­ers were also turn­ing their thoughts to next year.

“Ob­vi­ously, both cars have got bits that they [the en­gi­neers] are hav­ing a look at for fu­ture events,” said Red Bull boss Chris­tian Horner, whose team have won two of the last four races with Ver­stap­pen. “These ses­sions are so valu­able now.

“They are the last op­por­tu­ni­ties this year to try a few things out for fu­ture car de­vel­op­ment.”

Ric­cia­rdo will have a drop of at least 10 grid places due to power unit changes while Hart­ley and Gasly will also pick up engine penal­ties due to their woes dur­ing the prac­tice ses­sions in Brazil.


Bren­don Hart­ley en­dured engine prob­lems in the open­ing prac­tice ses­sions at Brazil’s In­ter­la­gos cir­cuit.

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